Frequently Asked Questions
How deep should you score sourdough?
You should score a cut that’s at least ¼ to ½ inch deep.
Why does my blade drag when I try to score my dough?
Blades dragging on dough is usually a result of improperly proofed dough (under proofed or over proofed) and a weak gluten structure.
When you turn your dough out of your banneton, it should not spread and flatten out, it should have a tight and smooth skin that feel slightly dry and the surface should not be sticky.
What happens if you don’t score sourdough?
Failing to score your dough will prevent it from rising fully while it bakes. It will also burst in the oven and have unwanted bulges.
What causes oven spring?
Oven spring is the last burst of fermentation that occurs during the first 10 minutes of baking. Yeast responds to the extremely high temperatures of the oven by speeding up fermentation and producing a large amount of CO2 before they eventually die off. This results in a dramatic rise called oven spring.
To achieve oven spring you’ll need to bake your bread at the exact right moment. When it has built up enough CO2 yet has not exhausted all of its food source so that it can still support the last burst of activity needed to rise.
How to shape pizza dough
Okay, while not strictly “bread dough,” I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a link to my pizza dough shaping guide. I’m in a camp that believes pizza is certainly not bread, but I still hold both in equally high regard.
In the meantime, check out my wood-fired pizza dough recipe with extensive shaping instructions.
How to shape a boule (round)
A staple shape for any baker, the boule is the simplest form of shaping and a good option when working with doughs that are expected to have a tighter interior crumb (like porridge bread, whole wheat, or those with high mix-in percentages).
I use the same boule shaping method for shaping smaller loaves up to larger loaves, like a sourdough miche.
Common Types Of Bread Lame
What kind of lame for the bread scoring? Well, depending on your goals and experiences, you can choose a suitable bread lame.
Curved Bread Lame (Razor Blade)
Some bakers find that the curved blade cuts more easily under the dough surface than the straight blade.
This blade is thinner, suitable for design bread, especially French bread and sourdough bread. You can create pattern bread with intricate motifs using the curved lame.
The curved blade allows for smooth and fast action, score deeply, and score off the top layer of dough without damaging the bread before baking.
Tips For Using A Curved Bread lame
Many professional bakers prefer to use the curved bread lame because they have a lot of slashing to do on the dough.
When using the curved lame, you should remember:
- Moisten the dough with water, cooking oil, or flour to soften the dough surface, and the curved lame blade can glide over the skin easier.
- Choose a pattern: only use the curved bread lame for a small, detailed pattern. You can angle the curved lame to your liking and control the cut.
- Make sure you feel comfortable holding the curved bread lame. Use your thumb to hold the hilt and the index finger to deflect the cut.
Straight Blade Lame
Using the straight blade lame requires technique and expertise. The blade can be serrated or not, for making the long clear score, not as slender as the curved lame. This type of lame is more durable, lasts longer, detachable, or not.
The straight blade lame has a hilt that is more fixed and firmed than the curved lame. However, it is difficult to make small, complex, and circle details with straight lame.
Tips For Using A Straight Bread Lame
If you like a simple, easy-to-clean lame, try the straight blade, practice, and execute without hesitation.
- Retract the hand, fingers slightly curled into the palm, and place the fingertips on top, hold the dough firmly and perpendicular to the blade.
- Keep the thumb as the pivot point and rotate the wrist by the direction of the blade movement.
- When slashing, move your finger back and keep the position. Not only will this position help protect your fingers, but you can also press the blade against the straight edge of the fist (created by four folded fingers) to align the straight blade more precisely when needed.
Finishing the crust – glazes, washes, and toppings (Optional)
Finishing the crust is the special touch for homemade bread that leaves it so yummy with a beautiful appearance! It adds flavour, affects the crust’s look, taste and crunch, provides an attractive finish, and adds moisture to the bread.
Although glazes, washes and toppings are often optional ingredients that I usually omit, they boost flavour and enhance the appearance of the bread.
If you do not use glazes or washes, your bread will have a more matte or floury crust. Wash gives it a pretty colour and a bit of sheen.
Glazing, washing or topping the exterior of your loaf can help you achieve the effect you are after (i.e., soft, sweet, crusty, shiny, etc.). They can help to achieve a range of textures from soft and velvety to crisp and crunchy. It may also smooth or colour the crust as well as add flavour. But it is really up to you, the baker, how you will finish the loaf.
Note: Prepare glazes, washes, and toppings while the oven is preheating.
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Scoring Bread Problems
If you do not know how to use the bread lame correctly, your bread will have some problems.
After reading the above section, I am sure you have already figured out what a bread lame is. Before taking a deeper look at the bread lame types, let’s review the common mistakes you often have in bread scoring, especially for bread lame beginners and less inexperienced in making bread.
The Score Has Wrinkles
The blade may not be sharp enough, so you need to score again and again. In this case, you need to replace the lame blade or sharpen and clean it before you use it. The too old lame also affects cake quality.
The Dough Sticks On The Bread Lame
If you use a razor, it may be because the back part of the blade sticks to the cake surface, creating wrinkles. It feels easier to score bread when plugging the blade, and it won’t be wrinkled.
Everyone has different talents. You can’t become a scoring expert right away. All you need to do is practice using bread lame skillfully so that you can create smooth lines.
Don’t be discouraged and throw away the failures. They may look unsightly, but flavor-wise, they’re good. Cut the bread into small pieces and use them for recipes with leftover bread. No one will be able to tell the bread origin, and you get a chance to practice. It’s a win-win situation.
Bread Scoring Patterns
Now that you know the basics of scoring, your bread can serve as a blank canvas where your creativity can run wild. Remember that the main goal of scoring is to take full advantage of oven spring in a way that helps bread maintain its shape.
To help you get started, here are a few examples of essential cuts that are suitable for boules or batards.
Shaping bread dough frequently asked questions
Either your dough is over hydrated, under-strengthened, or over-proofed. In most cases, it is either over-hydrated or under-strengthened. Hold back some of the mixing water next time if you feel the dough is very wet and hard to handle at the end of mixing. If the dough feels weak and fails to smooth and hold its shape by the end of bulk fermentation, mix/knead it longer or add more sets of stretches and folds during bulk fermentation.
Should I use water, flour, or something else when shaping bread dough?
When preshaping, I like to use water, but for final shaping, I almost always use flour don’t he work surface and my hands to keep everything nonstick. An exception might be a very highly hydrated dough like a pan loaf, where water might make more sense since the dough will be very sticky and wet.
Finishing with water and NO toppings
Water may be brushed on or spritzed for a speedy, no-hassle glaze. Spraying or brushing loaves with water while they bake will produce a crispy and crunchy crust with a nicer (in my opinion!) colour than the unglazed one. Water keeps the dough skin from forming the crust, enabling the dough to expand. It also smooths out the crust, creating a more refined appearance. Apply just before baking.
If you’ve enjoyed this article on the best tips for scoring sourdough bread, you might be interested in these articles:
When Should You Score Bread?
Scoring is the last step of the bread making process, right before dough is baked. It’s done after the final proof and right before putting your loaf in the oven to be baked.
Must have tools
Lame – a specialized tool specifically designed for scoring dough. It allows you to safely hold the thin sharp blades required for cutting clean lines on dough. It’s best to purchase a reusable lame that can be fitted with fresh sharp blades.Double-edged blade – the thin, razor-edge of a blade will allow you to create a clean cut. They are inexpensive and can be purchased in large quantities, it’s good to have a large supply since these blades become dull quite easily.
Nice to have
Rice flour – dusting a little bit of rice flour on your dough before scoring, creates contrast that will highlight your design. Because it doesn’t scorch in the high temperatures of the oven, it stay lighter in color and won’t make your loaf taste burnt.Parchment paper – makes transferring your dough to your Dutch oven or baking vessel much easierButcher’s twine or thread – marks guidelines on your dough that will help with creating decorative scoring patternsScissors – snips dough for smaller, deeper cutsBrush – for brushing away any excess flour that’s caked on proofed dough
Why you need a bread lame
You need a blade with an extremely thin and sharp edge to cut through wet dough. Even the sharpest paring knife is too thick, will likely drag on your dough and cause jagged cuts. A lame allows you to safely hold a blade without cutting your fingers.
Why I love Wire Monkey lames
I personally love holding my blades as close as I can since it gives me the best control and allows me to score intricate and delicate designs. Expertly designed Wire Monkey lames allow me to do this safely. Plus their lames are made in the USA from either high-quality wood or recycled materials.
Reasons I love it
- Allows for precision and intricate scoring
- Reusable, avoids unnecessary plastic waste
- Cleverly designed to store sharp blades
- Blades can be easily and safely changed
- Artisanal product made by a small business!
What Is A Bread Lame?
When making bread, you need a bread lame to make bread have a more airy texture. This process is scoring or slashing the dough. Besides having a standard recipe, a premium bread loaf pan to hold its shape, and high-quality ingredients, scoring also plays an important role.
Bread lame is a tool to score the surface of the dough before putting it in the oven to bake. The purpose of scoring is to make the dough expand better and beautifully after baked (well-aerated bread).
People use a special bread lame to score the dough surface, which not all knives can do. You can buy bread lame in specialized bakeries, buy online, or order at the workshop as required.
You can choose a bread lame at reputable, branded stores to ensure its quality. A poor quality bread lame will affect the aesthetics and be harmful to bread.
Using a bread lame requires patience and meticulousness, so do not rush. You can learn and experiment with some simple tools before practicing with a real bread lame.
How To Design Sourdough Bread By The Bread Lame?
You can decorate the bread with the patterns in the picture.
Step 1. Determine The Layout
In this step, you need to study the shape of the dough to find a suitable layout. When applying the layout, you need to pay attention to the large and small arrays that change dynamically, not too big, not too small.
You can have your own layout rules such as repetition, interlacing, overlapping, axial symmetry, or irregularity then you can do it again and again for the next dough.
Step 2. Score From Simple To Complex Detail
The line, circle, and curve score technique require concentration. Let your hands relax while holding the bread lame, focusing on the simple lines first instead of trying the perfect lines.
Break long lines into short segments.
Score fast lightly on the dough, don’t put too much pressure.
Step 3. Practice As Much As Possible
Practice is a crucial part of improving your scoring skills. Some people may possess a natural ability to be more skillful than others. However, you can improve your scoring with regular practice in holding and moving bread lame to score a correct line.
Different Cut Patterns
Here are a few patterns that may make bread look lively:
You can simply cross the dough to the center with a bread lame about two times immediately before placing it in the oven.
A cross pattern is a figure with two perpendicular or diagonal lines that divide one or both of them into two equal parts. The classic cross is always a popular motif when you want to create accents for bread.
The diamond pattern seems to be more difficult than the cross pattern, making bread look lively.
You can decorate the bread with diamond style. The diamond pattern, in this case, has the shape of a circle or oval, sometimes a polyhedron.
Professional bakers like to challenge themselves with a difficult pattern. The leaf pattern gives an artistic look to the bakers.
You can make a leaf pattern by using a series of curved lines. Note that the lines vary in length, and they meet at the sharp and jagged points. Cut the longer lines to form lobes or sections of leaves.
For those who unready to slash the complicated patterns, let’s try with the spiral.
To create a spiral, you cut the circles that move in a curve around a point or vice-versa. If you want a thicker spiral, just cut deeper into the curves. These curves are not necessarily as compact as the circle. There may be a slight deviation depending on the shape of the dough.
You can learn other patterns with this video:
Watch this video: Sourdough Bread SCORING Techniques
Know anyone who loves bread or a professional baker? Give them a premium bread box to keep their bread fresh, and a bread lame to help them create beautiful “works of art”. Tools such as these are a must-have for beginners and seasoned bakers alike.
Admittedly, using a bread lame is an art. Know your current level and take the time to practice frequently. Patience and persistence is the key to becoming a master in using this kitchen tool.
Using bread lame is not as difficult as you might think, but getting a good score takes a lot of practice. You can set a personal goal for the bread lame lesson. A goal is a motivation to help you stay focused and practice using the bread lame regularly.
Sometimes you will find it is difficult to angle the bread lame correctly. This is the hardest part of using the bread lame. Ask your instructor as soon as possible. He or she will explain the difficult part of your problem of using the bread lame. Remember to take notes and make time to practice your skills!
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How to Score Bread
While it may seem simple and straight-forward enough, scoring requires a bit of strategy. Mainly, you’ll need to score a large and deep enough cut that will allow your bread to expand fully. Insufficiently scoring your dough will result in blowouts or a compacted loaf. However, scoring too large or too deep of a cut, or scoring too many cuts may destroy the structural integrity of your dough, prevent it from rising and cause it to flatten out.
Your primary consideration in scoring your loaf will be to create an adequate enough cut to let the gasses in your dough escape. An essential cut can be simple or decorative, but it will need to be the largest cut you make that will allow your dough to rise and fully open while helping it keep its shape.
A large vertical gash allows a batard to maintain its shape as it bakes and rises
Scoring also allows you to show off your creative flair. Traditionally, it was known as the baker’s signature: a design unique to the baker who created it. While decorative scoring can serve as an essential cut, they are usually smaller, shallower, and are not involved in directing the shape of your baked loaf.
My Favorite Bread Lame
Over the years I’ve tried many different bread lames, and the Monkey Wire Shop “UFO” bread lame is the best by far. You’ll see it in the above photos, a round wooden disk with razor attached. It makes scoring much easier compared to a lame with a longer handle.
Here are some of the reasons I like it:
- Ultimate fine control over scoring.
- Ambidextrous design.
- Blade is easily stored inside for safety.
- Easy to grip.
- Changing the blade is simple.
Give It A Try!
How many times have you failed using the bread lame? Well, as you might know, there’s no panic for failure. But just you’ve not used the bread lame correctly doesn’t mean you should stop practicing it.
How To Practice Scoring Sourdough Bread
They say practice makes perfect, right? So the best way to improve at scoring sourdough bread is to practice! How do you practice scoring you might ask? Here are a few ways that you can improve your scoring technique:
- Make lots of smaller sourdough loaves. You could make a batch of simple sourdough and split it into two boules at shaping, giving you two bread canvases to practice on.
- Make a batch of mini sourdough boules – this will give you a tonne of practice!
- Practice drawing your preferred scoring patterns. This will allow you to get used to making the movements with your hands.
What is shaping bread dough?
Shaping bread dough is the step in the process that transforms mixed and fermented dough into its final form, with the intention that the form is retained to some degree until the dough is baked.
The bread-making process at a glance.
With the style of baking I typically do, I see shaping as the sixth step in the process, right after dividing & preshaping and right before proofing. The result of shaping is smooth dough with a tight outer skin that’s then placed into a proofing basket or bowl for the dough’s second (or final) rise.
Before shaping, though, we must first talk about the step before: preshaping.
Troubleshooting – Why Is It So Hard To Score My Sourdough?
Many people say that they have trouble scoring their sourdough bread. People often comment that the blade (razor or lame) “catches” or snags on their dough and they are unable to score in a single slash.
Others comment that you just need to wet or oil the blade, however, there is most likely more to the story than this simple fix.
Scoring sourdough can be difficult if you have:
- insufficient gluten development
- poor shaping technique
- misjudged fermentation (over or under)
Scoring & Gluten Development
Gluten development is really important for successful sourdough scoring because it ensures that the dough can withstand being cut and not collapse. If you haven’t developed gluten through to windowpane during stretching and folding, you may find scoring difficult.
To fix this, you need to concentrate on your gluten development techniques and ensure that your dough is stretchy and elastic and forms a window pane before you allow it to finish bulk fermentation.
Poor Shaping Technique
The shaping technique you use is important to the success of your sourdough scoring because if the dough is too slack and has no surface tension, your lame or blade will catch.
The trick here is to make sure that your shaping is tight enough to create the surface tension needed for good scoring. Your dough should have an outer skin that holds everything in place.
Misjudging the fermentation of your loaf will also result in difficult scoring. Both over and under fermentation can cause your dough to collapse and spread when you score it.
This is a good explanation of how to stop your dough from collapsing when you score it.
How to Score an Ear
The elusive and highly coveted ear is a testament to the skill of the bread maker. It’s the result of good oven spring. There’s not 1 simple trick to getting an ear, you’ll have to get every step of the bread baking process right and then you’ll need to purposefully score your dough so you can take advantage of its rise.
The ear is a testament to the skill of a baker, it demonstrates that all of the steps of the bread making process were completed correctly
What is an ear in bread baking?
An ear is a portion of dough that forms and hardens into a defined ridge as the dough bakes.
How to shape a baguette (or demi-baguette)
Thanks to our smaller oven size and limited proofing options, baguettes are a challenge for the home bread baker. But they also require practice and consistent attention to fermentation, dough strength, shaping, and proofing.
That said, they’re one of my favorite types of bread to make and are 💯 worth the effort.
Tips for Success
Score directly from the refrigerator – cold dough is much easier to score, and the contrast in temperature will help with the dough rise even higher.Use a specialized tool – even the sharpest bread paring knife won’t have an edge that can neatly cut through wet dough. The sharp, thin edge of a double-edged blade will prevent your dough from dragging and a bread lame will allow you to safely hold the sharp blade.Create a score that’s wide enough and deep enough to allow your bread to rise – your essential cut should be at least ¼ to ½-inch deep and should be large enough to allow your bread to rise fully. If you fail to score your dough enough, your bread may burst.Don’t score your dough too aggressively – if you cut too deep into your dough you may destroy the structure you’ve worked so hard to create during the bread making process. Coat your blade in a thin layer of oil – if you find that your blade drags while you’re scoring, rub a little bit of oil on your blade to help it glide smoothly through your doughMake quick, confident cuts: scoring too slow will cause even the sharpest blade to drag and leave ragged marks on your doughBake your dough right away – letting your dough sit for too long before putting it in the oven may cause it to deflate and lose its strength
Try your scoring skills on my Basic Sourdough Bread or Spelt Sourdough Bread recipe!
Glazes and washes
Glazes and washes also provide glue if you want to add seeds or grains to the crust. They often consist of liquid ingredients, such as oil, milk, water, honey, and egg, which are brushed onto the dough to provide an attractive finish.
Use a pastry brush to apply the glaze.
Note: Some glazes, such as eggs or honey, have an adhesive property. Keep it away from the sides of the pan to prevent the bread from sticking to the pan. And also, to avoid preventing the dough from expanding properly during baking.
How to get a tight outer skin during shaping bread dough
One frequent question I receive is from bakers struggling to get a tight (or taut) outer skin when shaping bread dough. A tight outer skin helps ensure the dough keeps its intended shape all the way to bake time. Further, that tight skin is also smooth, taut, and elastic, which helps it remove cleanly from the proofing basket.
To get a tight outer skin when shaping, be sure the dough:
Let’s now turn to the actual shaping of bread dough and what forms are available to the baker, starting with my favorite shape, the oval bâtard.
A shaped and baked bâtard (oval), my favorite way to shape bread dough.
How to check if bread dough is ready for shaping
For the type of bread I typically make, the step right before shaping is preshaping, but right before then is bulk fermentation—the dough’s first rise. Let’s look at each case.
A shaped bâtard with a tight outer skin.
Troubleshooting – Why Is My Sourdough Bursting My Scoring?
You may score your sourdough bread beautifully and then it decides to “burst” while in the oven.
This bursting is caused by under fermentation. Because the dough has not fully fermented, it has too much energy left and so rises very fast in the hot oven. This rapid rise causes it to burst the scoring, even when you’ve scored it so nicely.
The solution here is to make sure that you give it a chance to ferment and proof before you place it into the oven.
When to add
Glazing, washing and topping are often the final steps in bread making. They are usually applied to the dough before baking. But some recipes call for the glaze to be applied after the bread is baked.
The bread dough should NOT receive any glazes, washes or toppings (if intended) until the dough has finished the final rising period, also known as proofing.
Adding washes and toppings before baking
Just before the bread baking cycle begins, open the cover of the bread maker and carefully brush the top surface of the dough.
Leave plain or sprinkle with seeds, herbs, grated parmesan or Romano cheeses, or other desired toppings.
Use the beaten egg washes to treat the crust when sprinkling toppings for the best results. This mixture will ensure that toppings will stick and not fall off when the bread is removed from the pan.
Press toppings gently into the dough to ensure it adheres and will not fall off.
Close the cover and allow the bread to bake.
Adding glazes after baking
You can also treat the crust after the bread is done baking.
Remove bread from the bread pan and place it on a rack. Lightly brush the top of the loaf with melted butter, margarine, olive oil, or vegetable oil and sprinkle desired topping onto the bread’s top.
Important: Do NOT use vegetable oil cooking sprays to treat crusts, as the cooking sprays can be flammable when exposed to the bread maker’s heating unit.
Note: Some glazes, such as eggs or honey, have an adhesive property. To prevent the bread from sticking to the pan, keep it away from the sides.
And also to avoid preventing the dough from expanding properly during baking.
Should I preshape my dough before shaping it?
While not always necessary, I usually preshape my bread and pizza dough.
At the end of bulk fermentation (first rise), we have a large dough that’s risen for several hours and is disorderly once tipped out to the work surface. If you’re making more than one loaf of bread, this large dough needs to be split (divided) into smaller pieces. In doing so, you end up with shaggy, unorganized bits of dough. To make final shaping easier, preshape those shaggy bits into loose but organized pieces.
These smaller pieces will be smoother, more cohesive, and ready to form into the final shape.
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How to shape a bâtard (oval)
I’m naturally drawn to this shape, and I typically score a long, single slash to bisect the loaf down its central meridian. The way the score peels back, singeing the very edge to a dark brown, and forming a pronounced “ear” with a spectrum of colors from edge to edge—it gets me every time.
I also simply like the way it slices. Each cut makes a cross-sectional slice that’s a little shorter, perfect for making a hearty sandwich.
Which Sourdough Scoring Technique Should I Use?
As mentioned earlier, there’s really no right or wrong method to use when scoring your sourdough. It really comes down to personal preference.
If you aren’t too fussed at how your loaf looks, a single utility score or cross might just suffice.
If you are more artistic or would like to gift a beautiful loaf, you may prefer to try some more intricate or artistic scoring. This can take time to get the hang of, so don’t get disheartened if your first try is unsuccessful.
Here are some of the types of sourdough scoring that you could try:
- Single Slash on one side (creates a single flap of dough or ear)
- Single Slash in centre of dough (creates double ear)
- French Score (two parallel lines)
- X score
- S score
- Square score (windowpane)
- Spiral score
- Spiral with vines or scissor cuts
- Monsterra Leaves or other leaves
- Cross Hatch or Diamond Cross Hatch
- Any intricate artisan scoring
Top 7 Tips for Scoring Sourdough Bread
- Cold dough is MUCH easier to score. 90% of the time I do the final rise overnight in the refrigerator, which gives the loaf better flavor from the increased fermentation time, but also allows me to score the dough cold, straight from the fridge. Cold dough holds its shape better when it comes out of the banneton, and the blade guides through it much easier than warm dough. No dragging will be present, unless you’ve overproofed your dough.
- Do not use a knife to score sourdough, use a bread lame. A regular knife does not move as swiftly through the dough, and drags. It’s also difficult to be precise with the cuts, as a knife blade is much longer and harder to maneuver.
- Make sure to score deep enough, from 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch deep, erring on the later. This ensures the score doesn’t fuse back together when the dough expands in the oven. Pull the blade towards you while gliding the blade into the surface of the dough and continue to pull the blade through the length of the cut.
- Dip the razor blade into water before scoring. This will help the blade glide and create smooth cuts, rather than dragging and leaving ragged marks.
- If you want an “ear” on your sourdough, score at a shallow 45 degree angle to create a lip that will open up as the bread bakes. You’ll also need proper fermentation and enough strength in shaping to achieve the elusive ear.
- Once the dough is scored, get it into the oven right away. If you let it sit, the dough will start to deflate and lose some of its strength because it has been cut open.
Benefits Of Using A Bread Lame
If you are making decorative patterns for the bread, use the bread lame to design any templates you want.
Score Bread Dough
Bread lame has many benefits in the bread-making process. The best advantage is to create a vent to help the dough swell well, a beautiful enlarged crumb, have “ears” and be rounded evenly. If you do not cut the dough before baking, the bread will become distorted, the shell and the bread-crumb will become thick.
Create Patterns For Bread
To create many beautiful designs for bread and satisfy your artistic needs, you must use the bread lame.
Today, making bread is not only satisfying food needs but also art. Any difficult customer will be satisfied if you create unique, non-monotonic bread.
A bread that attracts customers is not only delicious but also beautiful. A delicious bread must cover the bread aroma, have a cracked crust, spongy gut evenly.
Although the crust scoring technique is difficult, it is crucial to know how to do it. If you love and often make bread, a bread lame is an indispensable tool to design bread.
Bread Knife Vs. Bread Lame
If you can not distinguish between bread knives and bread lame, you can find out in this section:
People use the bread knife to cut through the bread into thin slices.
The bread knife has a long and flat blade used to cut bread or cake. The bread knife blade is serrated or non-serrated, sharp enough to cut through the bread without breaking it.
The serrated knife has blade lengths that vary from 6 inches to 14 inches (15-30cm) to cut small, large bread or cakes conveniently. Bakers use the serrated knife to cut bread, cream cake, or cake to make the cutting surface smoother, without crumbles, creating fine lines.
Bakers use the bread lame to make a vent for the dough
A bread lame usually has an iron or steel sharp, thin, light blade with a compact plastic/wooden hilt (stick) to help you hold comfortably. The blade and hilt of the bread lame are removable, easy to change.
Bread lame is a knife just for scoring the dough that does not have the slicing or cutting function like a conventional knife. This lame will help you create patterns for bread with attractive and eye-catching decorative lines.
Some bread lame has a thin serrated blade which makes it easy to cut different types of dough. The bread lame is commonly cheaper than a bread knife.
It is not always possible to use bread lame in the bread-making process.
Bakers use the bread lame to score the dough just before baking. Scoring dough before or during the brewing process will make the cut less sharp, less obvious, and not beautiful when baking.
When scoring, be careful not to press down, but make an action like slashing a lame on the surface of the dough. Pressing the blade will make the bread flatten.
It will be best if you score two times by the bread lame. First, you make a light score on the dough. Then, you score deeper.
When making a score, you should angle the lame at about 45 degrees to make the cut skew and get under the bread crust, not upright.
The score should be about 0.2-0.5 cm deep so that when the bread fully expands when baking, the score will tear itself to form a better edge.
How to shape buns, rolls, and small pieces of dough
You can use your hands to make small, tight rounds when shaping bread dough as a small bun or roll. Alternatively, you can use a bench scraper if the dough is extra soft and tacky. I tend to use my bench scraper more often than not because it’s easy to push and pull the dough against the work surface with the blade, more easily encouraging a tight skin to form on the exterior of the dough.
I use two methods here, one with only my hands and one with my bench knife.
The Right Knife Is Important
Remember: A serrated bread knife is extremely important when cutting into bread. According to Drakulich, you want to cut a loaf of bread like you’re cutting a tree. “What I mean by this is, when you’re using a saw-like motion going side to side, you aren’t putting pressure on the bread like you would with a non-serrated knife. This way, you’re less likely to squish the bread—which is really what we’re after here.”
How to shape a pan loaf (for sandwich bread)
I’m a big fan of pan loaves; the pan’s structure lets you push the limits of what a dough can handle (water, mix-ins, enrichments) while almost always guaranteeing success.
How Deep Should You Score Sourdough Bread?
As a general rule, you need to score your dough around ¼ to ½ inch deep. It doesn’t need to be super hard or deep.
The trick is to make sure that you do have one score at ¼ to ½ inch deep – whether that’s a slash that goes along one side or a small cross on the top.
Then if you want to score a decorative pattern, that needs to be very superficially cut into the dough with shallower cuts.
Another way to look at this is “primary” and “secondary” scores. So you would do one primary score and then the artistic scoring is secondary.
You can score sourdough bread too deep. You don’t want to go deeper than half an inch, even for the primary score. If you score too deep will affect the integrity of the gluten and shaping on the dough and it will not spring up in the oven. It may also cause a really huge ear or flap of dough which is unsightly and hard to cut once baked.
Here is a full range of possibilities to choose from
The bread will look relatively pale compared to some of its glazed friends. It will have a matte appearance, and the crust will be more chewy than crispy.
For an opaque, tasty, light colour, smooth, chewy crust
With a matt appearance, not shiny at all, the crust has a light colour and is slightly crunchier than unglazed bread.
Olive oil before or after baking
Glazes such as olive oil can be applied just before or after baking to soften the crust and provide a richer flavour.
For an opaque and tasty
Water + Salt + herbs before baking
- 2 teaspoons of salt
- 2 tablespoons hot water
Dissolve 2 teaspoons of salt in 2 tablespoons of hot water and brush over the bread. Sprinkle with herbs and bake.
For an opaque dark crust
Milk before baking
Brush loaves with milk before baking to produce a lovely golden-brown colour.
Darker than the one without a glaze but not as dark as some other types of glaze. It produces a quite matt appearance but is slightly shinier than the unglazed one.
For a softer, shiny crust
Milk or cream after baking
Brush just-baked bread with milk or cream.
For a shiny, light golden-brown chewy crust
If desired, sprinkle chopped nuts or fruit and or seeds after glazing.
Egg white before baking
Brush loaves with egg white before baking to produce a shiny, lighter colour crust.
Important: You should NOT use it with the “French” or “ExpressBake (under 1 hour)” setting because the high cooking temperature may cause the egg to burn quickly.
Note: To keep unused egg yolk fresh for several days, cover it with cold water and store it in the refrigerator in a covered container.
Egg white + Water before baking
A crisp light brown crust. The ideal sticky glaze for attaching seeds.
Lightly beat and strain before brushing it on.
- 1 egg white (2 tablespoons)
- 1/2 tablespoon water
Egg white + Water + Salt before baking
You can also add a tiny pinch of salt to make it easier to pass through the strainer and spread.
Beat it with a fork before brushing it on.
For a shiny and pleasingly golden-brown crust
Whole egg before baking
For a shiny and pleasingly golden-brown crust, use the whole egg (white and yolk beaten together) or just the egg yolk. They are very similar. I probably wouldn’t bother separating it, but the yolk is the more important component here.
An eggwash glaze is the most appealing option unless you want a bit of sweetness. It is one of the most usual glazes for bread. Because of its adhesive properties, it allows other toppings to adhere easily to the dough’s surface.
Note: An egg glaze will lose its shine if it uses steam during baking.
Important: You should NOT use it with the “French” or “ExpressBake (under 1 hour)” setting because the high cooking temperature may cause the egg to burn quickly.
Egg + Water before baking
A medium shiny golden crust.
- 1 slightly beaten egg
- 1 tablespoon water
Egg + Water + Salt before baking
When using an egg wash, it goes on most smoothly if strained. You can also add a pinch of salt to make it more liquid and easier to pass through the strainer.
- 1 slightly beaten egg
- 1/2 tablespoon water
- tiny pinch of salt
Mix the egg with 1/2 tablespoon water and a pinch of salt. Whip and strain to remove clumps of egg white.
Wash with the egg mixture and add your toppings.
Note: Injected steam during the baking will remove the shine.
Egg yolk glaze before baking
Egg yolk gives a brown colour. It is markedly one of the shiniest glazes and the most richly coloured.
- 1 slightly beaten egg yolk
- 1 Tablespoon water
Mix 1 slightly beaten egg yolk with 1 Tablespoon water.
For a shiny and dark golden-brown crust
Egg + Milk (or cream) before baking
- 1 slightly beaten egg
- 1-2 Tablespoon milk (for a shiny medium golden-brown crust) or cream (for a shiny deep golden-brown crust)
Mix 1 slightly beaten egg with 1-2 Tablespoon milk or cream
Egg yolk + Milk (or cream) before baking
- 1 lightly beaten egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon milk (for a darker brown) or heavy cream (for an even darker brown)
For a shiny and darker golden-brown crust
Egg + Coffee before baking
For a shiny and darker golden crust, brush a mix of 1 egg with a few drops of coffee.
Egg yolk + Coffee before baking
Brush an egg yolk with some coffee for a shiny, darker golden crust.
For a soft chew velvety crust
Butter or Margarine, or Melted vegetable cream before or after baking
Brush 1/2 tablespoon butter (preferably clarified) or margarine, or melted vegetable cream, before or immediately after baking to produce a tender, chew velvety crust.
- Butter glaze before baking – It’s quite matte and darker, with a more vibrant, pleasing colour and slightly cracked appearance.
- Butter glaze after baking – Brush as it comes out of the oven. The result is a pleasant shine but a less browned appearance.
For a soft crust with little shine
Cornstarch + Water – before, during and after baking
This is a secret to giving your bread the professional bakery look.
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoon water
- 1/4 cup boiling water
With a small whisk, stir together cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of water in a small saucepan.
Bring the remaining 1/4 cup water to a boil and whisk the cornstarch mixture into it; simmer for about 30 seconds or until thickened and translucent.
Cool to room temperature, and then brush on the bread.
For a shiny, sticky sweet crust
Honey after baking
Honey is applied just after the loaf is removed from the oven.
You can attach toppings. The honey will soak into the crust but hold the toppings on.
Sugar water glaze after baking
The sugar water makes an excellent alternative if you want a bit of sweetness.
A small amount of sugar dissolved in a bit of water will give a shiny appearance and a subtly sugary flavour. However, for the shine, you’d have to brush it on after baking.
For an opaque, sticky sweet crust
Sugar water glaze before baking
It will result in a matte appearance with a lovely darkened crust with a subtly sweet taste of the glaze.
Creamy vanilla glaze
Mix until thin enough to drizzle:
- 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 teaspoons milk
Browned butter vanilla glaze
- 2 tablespoon butter (or margarine)
- 2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 4 teaspoons milk
Heat butter (or margarine) in a 1-quart saucepan over medium heat until light brown; cool. Stir in confectioner’s sugar and vanilla. Stir in milk until smooth and thin enough to drizzle.
- 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons water
- 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon or orange peel
- 2 teaspoons lemon or orange juice
- 1/3 cup mashed ripe banana
- 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (melted)
- 6 Tablespoon cream cheese (softened)
- 1 Tablespoon chopped walnuts
- 2 teaspoons honey
For sweet icing glaze
Confectioner’s sugar + milk (or water or fruit juice) glaze
Mix until smooth:
- 1 cup sifted confectioner’s sugar
- 1 to 2 tablespoons of milk, water or fruit juice
Drizzle glaze over raisin or sweet bread when they are almost cool.
If desired, generously sprinkle with your choice of nuts or seeds after glazing.
For a spicy and golden crust
Oil + Curry or Pesto
Brush with a mix of oil and curry or pesto.
- 1/4 cup butter or margarine (softened)
- 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 cup butter or margarine (softened)
- 1 Tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
- Dash of garlic salt
Italian herb butter
- 1/4 cup butter or margarine (softened)
- 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- Dash of salt
Ham and Swiss Spread
- 6 Tablespoon cream cheese (softened)
- 2 Tablespoon finely chopped, fully cooked, smoked ham
- 1 Tablespoon shredded Swiss cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon prepared mustard
Herb-cream cheese spread
- 1/2 cup whipped cream cheese
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh or 1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
- 1 small clove of garlic (finely chopped)
Ripe olive spread
Cover and mix in a food processor or blender until slightly coarse:
- 1-1/2 cups pitted, ripe olives
- 3 Tablespoon olive oil
- 3 Tablespoon capers (drained)
- 3 flat anchovy fillets (drained)
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 2 garlic cloves
Use your imagination
Of course, these are not the only glazing alternatives.
This is another chance to be original and use your imagination. And remember, a glaze makes a good glue for sticking seeds, such as sesame or poppy seeds, to the top of your bread.
Let me know if you have any great favourites that I’d like to try.
To Flour or Not To Flour?
Often you’ll see sourdough bread with a “flour contrast” used to highlight the scoring pattern.
There is really no hard or fast rules here. You can choose to flour or not to. There are a few things that might help you in your decision.
If you do use flour, you cannot use a water spray or ice cubes when you add the dough to the Dutch Oven. The extra steam will dissolve the flour making it invisible.
So you need to decide which is more important to your final product.
You can see the contrast of the dough with and without flour. The “belly” has opened up with no flour on it highlighting the design.
After shaping bread dough, you can do as I often do and top the bread dough with oats, seeds, or other ingredients to add visual flourish, nutrition, and flavor.
What is the most popular scoring technique for sourdough bread?
The most popular scoring technique for sourdough bread is a wheat stalk design. This is chosen by so many home bakers to add artistic flair to their baked bread.
How do you score sourdough for beginners?
The most simplest bread scores for sourdough beginners are a simple slash on one side or in the centre or a cross. Both of these are really easy to master and have a lovely, simple rustic effect on your baked sourdough.
Do you really need a lame to score sourdough bread?
No, if you do not have a lame, you can score sourdough bread with a sharp knife or even scissors. A simple razor blade (like the ones you would buy from the hardware store) are also very effective.
How to Create Decorative Scoring Patterns
Step-by-step guide to scoring decorative patterns on your sourdough bread.
2. Brush away any flour that may have hardened or caked on your dough
3. Dust your dough with rice flour and smooth it on top with the palm of your hand
4. Using a piece of string held tight leave an imprint on your dough to create a guide for your design
5. Using a lame fitted with a sharp blade, score a large gash about ¼ to ½ inch in depth
6. Create your design using quick, confident, shallow cuts
How To Score Sourdough Bread
There are so many ways to score sourdough bread. You can score it in a very simplistic way, with just one slash or cross. You could also choose a more intricate pattern. The most popular scoring techniques include a simple cross, wheat stalks, leaves and vines.
The most important thing to note here is that no matter what type of scoring you choose, you will need a utility or primary score. This is one score that is deeper than the others to ensure that your sourdough breaks open there and allows your other more intricate scores to bloom.
Of course, you could choose to only use one slash (this is my preferred method as I am far from artistic). This is perfectly fine and gives your bread the best chance of developing a sourdough ear.
When performing the utility score or primary slash, you want to do this in one swift movement, holding the blade on an angle (somewhere between 30 and 90 degrees is perfect). The lame or blade should glide easily through your dough in one movement. There shouldn’t be a need to go over the score.
So you want to do one deeper cut with the some more shallow cuts for decoration.
You will find some troubleshooting tips for what to do if your blade is catching in the dough further down.
Best Tips for Scoring Sourdough Bread
Here are my best tips for scoring sourdough bread with success:
- Cold proofing your dough for at least 5 hours before you attempt to score your bread can help to make it easier to score. Of course if your bread is over or under fermented, this may not work, but in general, cold dough is much easier to score than room temperature.
- Use unflavored dental floss to divide your dough into even sections to make artistic scoring easier.
- Stencils that are applied to the dough before you score can help to give you an outline to work with.
- Remember to only lightly score decorative scoring so that it does not open up too deep. A utility score is a really good idea to ensure that your decorative scoring doesn’t burst. Alternatively if you want only decorative scoring, you will need to ensure your dough is almost over proofed to stop it bursting the scoring.
- Lightly dust the flour onto your dough and use a blunt implement (a small crochet hook works well) to trace the design you want to score onto the dough. So long as you do it lightly, you can use a pastry brush to erase any mistakes and redo. Then go over the traced lines with your razor or lame.
- Try using this small batch sourdough loaf recipe so you have more loaves to practice on – with less flour used!
Nail fermentation – an ear is first and foremost, a result of properly fermented dough, you’ll need to time fermentation perfectly so you don’t underproof or over proof your dough Create strength and tension in your dough – to rise up and hold its shape, you’ll need to create strength through folding and create surface tension through intentional shaping Bake at the perfect moment – once you place your dough in the oven, the yeast respond by dramatically speeding up fermentation, this causes a large production of CO2 before they eventually die off. Bread baking is a bit of a balancing act and you’ll need to bake your bread at exactly the right moment, when the yeast has produced enough gas to tenderize the dough without exhausting their food source so they can manage this last final burst of gasses.Hold your lame at a 45 degree angle – if you manage to nail fermentation and create a strong dough, holding your blade at a 45 degree angle will allow the cut to open up to form an ear, instead of sinking downBake with steam – steam is essential for your loaf to achieve oven spring, without steam the crust would harden too quickly and your dough won’t have the chance to rise fully
The Purpose of Scoring Sourdough Bread
When making sourdough, gases are trapped instead the dough during fermentation and are what leavens the bread via your sourdough starter. But eventually, those gases need to escape.
When the dough hits the heat of the oven it will start to rise rapidly, springing up and pushing against the tight surface. Without scoring, that energy would have nowhere to go besides bursting outwards at the seams, like a tire blowing out. It won’t rise as well either.
By scoring the dough, the gases have somewhere to escape and the bread can get a lovely rise just as we had hoped. Scoring will also give structure to how the end loaf will look.
How To Use A Bread Lame
- Identify the swelling of the dough.
- Choose the suitable type of bread lame.
- Make sure that the blade is sharp.
- Insert the razor lame over one end of the bread lam.
- Spray the lame with cooking spray, cooking oil, or water.
- Hold the incision blade at 45 degrees and score quickly and decisively on the dough.
- Sprinkle the flour on the dough surface, then move the lame from one end to the other of the dough.
- Clean the bread lame after each use.
- Patience and persistence is the key to becoming a master at using a bread lame.
- When using a curved lame:
- Moisten the dough with water, cooking oil, or flour to soften the dough’s surface and help the blade to glide through more easily.
- Only use the curved bread lame for a small, detailed pattern. You can angle the curved lame to your liking and control the cut.
- Use your thumb to hold the hilt and your index finger to guide the cut.
- When using a straight bread lame:
- Retract the hand, slightly cur the fingers into the palm, and place the fingertips on top, holding the dough firmly and perpendicular to the blade.
- Keep the thumb as the pivot point and rotate the wrist in the direction of the blade movement.
- When slashing, move your finger back and keep the position.
The Tilting Technique
“While this hack might work for a very soft bread, like a French loaf, this isn’t the best technique for every type of bread,” Drakulich says. “For example, when you’re dealing with a loaf of bread with a very crusty and hard bottom, like an artisan baguette loaf, I recommend tilting the bread to the side and cutting that way. This gives you more control over the bread.”
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This article is part of “Everything You Need to Know to Start Baking Awesome Bread Using a Bread Maker.”
Everybody knows that I love to bake homemade bread from scratch. Using a bread machine couldn’t be easier, and it makes some fantastic bread! A bread machine combines convenience with flexibility. If you enjoy a fresh loaf of bread, but don’t have the time or space to bake from scratch, a bread machine is for you.
If you have never baked homemade bread before and find the instructions a wee bit intimidating, I encourage you to try it. It may seem intimidating at first, and the various steps take a bit of time to learn, but overall, it is truly easy.
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Why do we need to shape bread dough?
Strictly speaking, shaping bread dough isn’t mandatory. Some styles of bread are simply cut and loaded for baking (I see ciabatta as one that has little or no shaping at all). However, shaping allows bakers to form their fermented bread dough into a pleasing final shape.
However, the shape of a baked loaf is more than just how it looks it also has implications on its eating quality and the way the bread might be used. For example, compare the French baguette with a large miche. Both are very different shapes that result in using them for different purposes, but further, the shape affects the characteristics of the bread:
- Baguette: because of its thin, pointy stick shape and short but hot bake time, it will have a very thin crust and maximum crust-to-crumb ratio.
- Miche: because of its large, round shape (boule) and required long bake time, it will have a thicker crust with a lower crust-to-crumb ratio
What Tool Should You Use To Score Sourdough Bread?
The most popular tool to score sourdough bread with is a “lame”. This is a razor that is attached to a handle (often made of wood). The razor blade can be straight or curved depending on what you prefer.
If you do not have a lame and do not wish to purchase one, you could also use a sharp knife, razor blade or even scissors to score your bread. A lame or razor blade gives you the most precision, but a knife or scissors also work.
In some scoring techniques, scissors are used in conjunction with a lame to create intricate designs.
A serrated knife is not recommended for scoring sourdough bread.
A cake turntable can also be an invaluable tool when scoring dough because it allows you to move the dough while you score, rather than having to move yourself around the dough. You can pick up inexpensive cake turntables online which are perfect for this purpose.